The Sacred Antinous - Erotically-charged, Explicitly Illustrated, Queer-Themed Historical Fiction about Antinous and Hadrian
Sacred Texts
  ~000 Introduction
  ~001 Arrival at Caelian Hill
  ~002 Life at the Paedagogium
  ~003 Monsters and Heroes
  ~004 The Private Baths
  ~005 The Soaps of Cyprias
  ~006 The Treachery of Gryllus
  ~007 Assurances and Endurances
  ~008 The Demise of Trenus
  ~009 The Surprise Inspection
  ~010 Little Donkey
  ~011 Whispering Hope
  ~012 Epigrams for Antinous
  ~013 Books from Maltinus
  ~014 Little Signals
  ~015 Promotion
  ~016 Juvenalis IX
  ~017 A Frothy Idea
  ~018 Evening on the Riverbank
  ~019 Across the Leagues
  ~020 Unprecedented Access
  ~021 Winged Mercury
  ~022 Dinner Guest
  ~023 Causes of Nausea
  ~024 New Pupil
  ~025 Wax, Soap, and Wool
  ~026 Four Daughters
  ~027 Vitalis Atones
  ~028 Futures and Histories...
  ~029 The Triumph of Desire
  ~030 An Image of Antinous
  ~031 The Ride From Rome
  ~032 The Villa at Tibur
  ~033 The Ride To Rome
  ~034 Praeconina
  ~035 Foolish Carisius
  ~036 The Christian Texts
  ~037 Married Pleasures
  ~038 In Tibur, Alone
  ~039 The End of Corinthus
  ~040 Turning Tables
  ~041 A History & Fantasy...
  ~042 A Sad Collection
  ~043 Rafts in a Raging Sea
  ~044 Rome, Home and History
  ~045 A Caravan of Monologue
  ~046 On Favorinus
  ~047 The Flesh of a Metaphor
  ~048 Disquieting Thoughts
  ~049 Purple Reign
  ~050 The Heart of Numidia
  ~051 Stables of the Palatine
  ~052 Hadrian's Deprivation
  ~053 Transcripts and Categories
  ~054 In the Wake of a Paradox
  ~055 Father of the Country
  ~056 The First Night with Hadrian
  ~057 A Place in the World
  ~058 Hard Resolution
  ~059 Announcements...
  ~060 Keeping Company
  ~061 The Stallions' Ride
  ~062 The Tour Begins
  ~063 On the Isthmus
  ~064 On Grief
  ~065 The Eleusian Mysteries
  ~066 A Playful Wager
  ~067 The Delights of Athens
  ~068 On Receiving
  ~069 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~070 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~071 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~072 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~073 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~074 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~075 Epistle Coming Soon
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  ~077 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~078 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~079 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~080 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~081 Epistle Coming Soon
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  ~083 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~084 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~085 Epistle Coming Soon
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  ~090 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~091 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~092 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~093 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~094 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~095 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~096 Epistle Coming Soon
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Phallic Amulets

Little Signals


It is strange how life presents us with little signals – happy affirmations or sad warnings – concerning the paths we have already chosen to walk. You will recall (in my dreams!) how my last dispatch to you was a missive replete with the enthusiastic talk of books. I rolled it up, sealed it, and the following day carried it, along with a song in my heart, to the desk of Mordanticus. He welcomed me, as usual, with the utmost attentiveness, taking pains to set aside his work so he could face me directly and devote to me his fullest attention. And then, as though he had divined through its seal the content of the parchment in my hand, he asked me if I enjoyed reading. Is that not a wondrous thing? I smiled broadly and nodded, effusing upon his ears the confession that my mind was always eager to revel in its intercourse with the well-placed words of a writer.

“Behold,” he said, “this gift I have procured for you.” And he revealed to me a book. I was amazed at him, for a book is a very expensive thing, and the fact that Maltinus had entrusted me as the borrower of four of his own was astonishing enough. Yet despite of the cost, here was a man I barely knew who had endeavoured to buy for me a volume of my very own. “Why do you gape at me?” asked the smiling Mordanticus. “Is it so inconceivable that I, who stands in good position to spend his money amid the markets of Rome, should not wish to lavish its reward upon not only myself, but also the people in my life that bring me joy?” “How is it I bring you joy, Sir, when all that is the joy I bring to you is sealed up in these little packets addressed to a stranger that knows you not?”

At this he laughed and held out the book to me. I took it from him and admired it. “You are unique, Antinous, among the many boys I have encountered here in my long years upon the Palatine. You are a lad of letters; one who writes not from the compulsion of duty but from that of your heart’s desire. This to me is most laudable. And it stands as an evident truth, that the fellow who writes with such outright zeal ought also with as much of it read. Therefore do I give this to you with the ardent hope that it shall become the foundation of a great and cherished personal collection. May you enjoy it all your days.”

I opened the book and discovered its author to be Junius Juvenalis, and the volume was entitled Book III of the Satires. I made no attempt to hide how moved I was by the gesture of affection that Mordanticus had made in giving it to me. “Thank you, sir,” I said most humbly. Yet he very magnanimously brushed aside my reverence of him, and plunged into a discussion of what I should expect to find in the book’s pages: “This fellow is a friend of Martialis, whom I must imagine you have heard of on account of his notoriety. Yet for all that Martialis does basely, Juvenalis does with the utmost elegance. He is a great and pious teacher of morality, exhausted of the endlessly encircled paeans to the ancient gods – tired and uninspired trifles whose odious authors have the gall to call themselves poets – and adamant to bring to our national literature an exacting portrait of all that is present and immediate in the culture. I am quite convinced of this truth: that it is the very best stuff of education for a bright young man such as yourself.”

He took my letter from me then, placing it on the thick pile of papers that was bound for Byzantium. “Who is he,” asked Mordanticus, “this Lysicles? This lucky recipient who so commands your heart?” I smiled at him, and answered, “He is a friend, sir. A very loving friend. A boy my own age who shared with me my earliest days – until such time as I was brought here, to Rome, in service of the Imperial Household.” Mordanticus looked at me then for a very long time. “It pains you,” he finally said, “that Lysicles does not respond to your letters?” I nodded silently, and added, “It is very not like him, and I am concerned for his silence.” There was another pause, and finally Mordanticus decided on a course of action. “I shall send a dispatch,” he announced, “to the magistrates of Claudiopolis. I shall ask of them to locate this Lysicles, or his family, if they are able, and confirm for us that he is still a resident there. If he is not, I shall have them endeavour to find out where he has gone. It is most unbecoming for noble Antinous to continue sending out into the world his messages when there is no assurance that they are being received.”

Thus was I doubly indebted to the man, and thanked him most profusely. But he was not given to flattery – even that of the sincerest kind. “Go now, my beauteous boy. And tell me when you have finished reading your book, for I shall be very pleased to engage with you in a grand discussion of it.” It shall come as no surprise to you, Lysicles, that I very nearly floated out of his office, so bursting was I with the levity of that moment.

I returned to my position at the stables, and Anaxamenos was not blind to my gaiety. “Why so happy?” he asked me. “Are you expecting friends? Do you hope to be joined at last by those abandoned compatriots whom you left behind when Hadrian picked you?” I was confused by this, and asked him what he meant by it. “There has been an inspection,” he explained. “It happened this morning. Seven boys, I believe, were selected from the Caelian. They have been brought to the dormitory, and are learning this very moment of their positions.”

O Lysicles! How my heart sank then. For although none had said it, I knew without a doubt that Carisius was now installed upon the Palatine. Do not ask me how I knew it. I myself cannot explain it. Yet that night, as Anaxamenos and I returned to the Gelotiana, there – in the very same room as I – sat Carisius upon his bed, reading silently the names of all those boys who had long before us scratched their histories into the wall for all posterity. He turned to face me as I looked at him, and there was a moment of silent hesitation between us. And then he turned away.

Was he scared? Remorseful? Uncertain of himself? There was no way to tell. He was altogether silent and self-contained; his characteristic manner – that of a cocksure brat – was nowhere to be seen (although I certainly did not doubt that it would reassert itself once he had become more confident of his surroundings). I remember thinking with some consolation that the situation here was decidedly different than it had been upon the Caelian. For I was now in a position to claim, as no other boy could, the distinction of Hadrian’s favour on that particularly famous day not so long ago. This no doubt afforded me a much higher status amidst the boys than Carisius, as a newcomer, could claim. Yet I nevertheless was wary, and decided not to engage him. I sought my bed and shut my eyes.

But I did not sleep. Instead, I listened to the whispers in the room as the other boys began to probe Carisius for his story. He revealed to them that he was from Bithynia, and one of his listeners interjected that I was also from there. “I know,” replied Carisius. “We were recruited together.” And then the whispers lowered even further, softer than I could hear, and it became clear to me that his intrigue was already starting.

I sat up, and spoke crisply into the darkness of the room: “Whatever Carisius is telling you, my friends, is very likely a lie. He is malicious and cruel, and I urge you to greet his every word with the most tenacious skepticism.” There was a small pause, and at last the voice of Carisius replied to me and my accusations through the gloom: “I was merely reporting to these boys my opinion of you, Antinous, as an opportunist and an isolate; one who refuses to engage with others and earnestly thinks of himself as a god; far above the regular discourses of mortal man.”

At this, I was utterly stunned. Was that the perception of me, so opposite of how I had looked on myself? I realized suddenly how my silences might easily be perceived as so much more than the desire to keep quiet; how they could project from me an image of haughtiness and distance – the mark of a scheming, self-serving spirit. “Does he here,” asked Carisius, “as he did upon the Caelian, write his endless letters unto a mysterious friend? Does he here, as he did upon the Caelian, read incessantly, intentionally shutting out the world and the natural friendship of other boys?” The silence of those “other boys” in the room was quite deafening, for it screamed out as an indisputable affirmative. Carisius spoke again: “Let me be the first to admit that Antinous and I are far from allies, and have been so from a time long before we arrived at the Caelian. I had many, many joyous friends at the elementary school: some of you are here already; others are destined to join us shortly. Antinous had but one – a strange and unnatural invert who was later revealed to be a Christian. If, therefore, you agree to be skeptical of my words, then I must urge you to do so out of deference to your own experience, and not because Antinous, my admitted enemy, commands you. ‘Tis from your own eyes, I wager, will you find a greater truth than that which is spoken from his spurious mouth.”

I suddenly felt violently ill. Yet it wasn’t in response to the horrors that Carisius was speaking. It had much more to do, I think, with the realization that he had so soon after his arrival at the Palatine begun – successfully – to turn others against me, and I felt powerless to oppose him. I wanted desperately to ask him why he despised me so, and then realized that he had just explained himself! I wanted desperately to defend myself, until I realized that nothing I could possibly say would counter the truth of my actions: I was indeed an isolate. I felt myself falling; down, down into a dark pit of the utmost despair. I longed call out your name, Lysicles. To call you forth unto my side and stand with you shoulder to shoulder against his tyranny. And although I knew that was impossible, it was nevertheless the image of you beside me that fortified. I heard you say to me, “You do not keep many friendships, Antinous, but those that you do, you keep powerfully.” And from such a statement there came before my eyes the face of Trenus, and of Maltinus, and then at last of Anaxamenos. And from him, I thought of all the others with whom I kept company in the stables. Surely they could not find me so disagreeable! I clutched desperately at this lone hope, and spoke again to the room full of silent judges: “Carisius speaks of our time upon the Caelian. He does not know me now: a loyal and happy companion to Anaxamenos. He does not see me at my work in the stables, where I laugh often and make good company with Florentius, Dominicus and Quintillius – all of whom are friends to you. If I am changed, Carisius, from how you knew me, I dare say it is because I have had the freedom to do so without the oppression of your daily abuses hanging heavily over my head. ‘Tis you – not I – who are monstrous, and I warn you now in the presence of all these invisible witnesses that I shall not allow you to oppress me here as you did once before!” There was a long silence then, in which I had to catch my breath. I knew not from what place those words had come, yet they had been pushed from my lungs with a powerful compression of emotion – a rush of exhilaration from which I was still struggling to recover. I felt triumphant. Fully expressed and unafraid. At last Carisius laughed: “Believe what you wish, boys. I know what I know.” And then there was nothing, save the moonlight creeping slowly across the floor.

I need not tell you how difficult it was for me to sleep after such an episode. I was for many minutes after trying hard to regulate my breath and calm myself. I felt free, although at the same time very confused. Why had it been so hard to achieve this breakthrough in opposition to Carisius? From where had come this courage – at last! – to speak my mind and defend myself? It dawned on me that when I had found myself before Hadrian, there had been no fear at all. And the danger to my person back then was considerably higher than it had been this night in the dormitory. What was it – in both cases – that had compelled me to speak with such conviction?

The answer, of course, was perfectly obvious when I finally found it: It was Lysicles. Aye, ‘tis you, my friend, who is the source of my power and my courage, my conviction and my stability. With you, Lysicles, before me – either in the flesh and blood or in the centre of my mind’s eye – there can be no want, no danger, no pain. And now that I have discovered this simple truth, making it a conscious decree, I daresay that I shall tremble no more before any mortal man or beast. For whenever I am threatened or imperiled, challenged or provoked, I need only conjure the face of you – my forever love – to fortify, protect, and announce me.

The future no longer frightens. And now, with Lysicles as my heart’s companion, I stride serenely into its awaiting arms. A.

The Sacred Antinous is an ongoing work of Historical Fiction, for contemplative and educational purposes.
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